Things I didn’t blog about this week

My parrot bit the crap out of me on Wednesday.

On my face. He was pissed off because I was interrupting him playing in a favorite basket. I was in a hurry on my way to work, late again, and I didn’t have time to let him finish his play. He’s out for a few hours in the morning, then when I leave, he goes back in his cage by the back door. He has a perch in the bathroom to hang out on when I shower or bathe, and when I’m getting dressed, I let him play on the upper shelf of my walk in closet, which has been turned into a parrot playground- boxes, ladders, plastic chains, etc. This always ends with him climbing down a favorite space between some clothing baskets on a lower shelf. We have a ritual, I pretend to be surprised, he postures a bit , then he climbs on my hand and I put him in his cage and leave. Well, this morning, I was cutting that short and he was not happy. Plus I had been out late to a class the night before, further disrupting his routine. I’m not justifying his behavior at my own expense, but as anyone with pets and/or small children knows, routine is important.

Reading his body language, I wrapped a t shirt around my hand, signal for “Sorry but you have to come anyway.” He got on my hand, then lunged up at me and got me above my lip, hanging on until I reached up and brushed him off with my arm.

He’s done this three times in his life with me the past five years. Not a hormonal bite, not an “oops I thought you were letting me fall bite,” not a ritualized warning “get out my cage/box/hideyhole/territory” bite, but an attack. In retrospect, I think hormones may have been involved, it’s the right time of year, but still, it resembled the original instance. He was quickly furious, and he bit, then sat back and pinned his eyes at me in a way I’ve only seen the other two times.

To a lesser exent, I also think I wasn’t calm enough. So much of handling animals and living in an interspecies household is keying into the moment, be it excited, happy chaos/drama or stillness, quietness and receptivity.

After it was over, I kept moving, trying to maintain dominance, and put him back in his cage. That broke the spell and he began to quietly chirp and chatter, then start the call and response to the familiar routine of door squeaks, dog barks, tv, and jangling keys.

I can’t speak for other parrot wounds, but his worst seldom break the skin initially. They are instances of pinch/crush. It hurts like hell, it bruises, and sometimes the tissue under the skin doesnt recover and I’m left with a small divot/scar. This one isn’t as bad as I first thought.  I put ice on it for a while right after it happened and I think that helped.

So why didn’t I blog about it before? Because it’s upsetting on several levels. Because my experience of deciding to get a bird, and life with him since then has been complex and brought up a lot of issues about human control of animals, about living with an species that is not domesticated, not a cat or a dog. About being confident both that I am right and equally confident on other days that I am wrong. Gray areas abound and it’s easy to get lost in an ethical maze. Other people have strong feelings, not always in alignment with mine, about such things.

Also because it’s probably boring to those who don’t live with animals.

And/or just indulgent/freaky.

Also because, at the bottom of it, it’s upsetting to get bitten by anything, to be wounded by another living thing, especially one you know and care for.


2 Responses

  1. There is no controlling a parrot, they control us. I had a similar situation with Angel (umbie), otherwise known as The Devil’s Spawn. She was in a nesting mood, and deccided that chewing up my baseboards was her job of the day. I, on the other hand, was having none of that, and not reading her body language, I bent over, held out my arm and gave her the up command. Well, she did “up,” only it was a jump up to latch onto my nostril (piercing through it in the process) and holding on.

    Nothing so lovely as a 40-something woman bent over with an umbie hanging from her nostril, trying desperately not to scream.

    She’s never done that again, but the fact that it had happened at all was devastating to me, probably more so to me than to her. It was definitely a test of wills. It was also a reminder that we coexist, that one does not control the other. There is a give and take in that parrot/human relationship, just like there is in any other relationship.

  2. Damn, now THAT sounds painful.

    Thnx for the feedback. It’s good to hear from someone who’s been there.
    My dog Grommit has had a strong will from Day 1-its just how he’s built, but I’ve learned that usually when he does it, he’s trying to warn me I’m slipping – it’s kind of an exasperated “Do I have to do everything around here?” and then he backs off. But it’s nothing at all like the bird. On a 1-10 intensity level, I’d say it’s Dog 3 Bird 7, which is a trip, given that the dog is a sinewy 45 pounds and the bird weighs 8.5 oz.

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